It’s been nearly three years since the news broke that the people of Flint, Michigan had been drinking contaminated water but now it would seem that the wheels of justice are finally beginning to turn. Six high-ranking city and state officials have been charged with failing to alert the public of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that tore through the Flint-area in 2014 and led to the deaths of at least 12 people, WZZM13 reports.
Nick Lyon, who is head of the state health department, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for attempting to conceal the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak throughout the area of Flint, as well as the lead contamination of the area’s water supply which caused many children to contract lead poisoning. According to the court documents, “Defendant Lyon exhibited gross negligence when he failed to alert the public about the deadly outbreak and by taking steps to suppress information illustrating obvious and apparent harms that were likely to result in serious injury. Defendant Lyon willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.”
In addition to Lyon, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells has also been charged in connection to the Flint Water Crisis. Wells has been charged with obstructing justice after lying to a police officer about the water contamination.
Lyon and Wells were only the first two to be charged in connection to the cover-up that gravely impacted the residents of Flint. It has officially been announced that four other city officials were also charged in connection to the case.
Stephen Busch, a water supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, has been accused of tampering with monitoring reports. He is currently facing manslaughter charges for his role in the water crisis.
State-appointed emergency manager for the city of Flint during the time of the water crisis, Darnell Earley, has also been charged with manslaughter. While it has been alleged that Earley should bear a brunt of the blame for his aloofness to the water crisis in Flint, defenders say that Earley is only a scapegoat for decisions made prior to his tenure.
Howard Croft, who was the former director of Flint’s public works department, is also facing manslaughter charges. Croft’s department had been responsible for overseeing the Flint pipeline project and as the director of that department, Croft is being held responsible for the negligent oversight which caused the contaminated water to flow into homes throughout the city of Flint.
Chief of the state’s Office of Drinking Water, Liane Shekter-Smith, is the fourth state or city official to be charged with manslaughter. It has been alleged that Shekter-Smith had refused to speak with investigators working on the Flint case. Her alleged refusal to disclose information related to the contaminated water directly jeopardized the health of thousands of Flint residents including young children.
Prior to the water crisis, the city of Flint had a contract with the city of Detroit to pump water directly from Lake Huron. In 2014, the city faced an unforeseen financial crisis, causing them to conduct a number of budget cuts along the way. In the process of making these major budget cuts, state-appointed emergency officials decided to redirect existing pipelines that supplied drinking water to city residents to the Flint River in order to save money. It wouldn’t be revealed until later that year that the water that had been pumped into homes around the city had dangerous levels of lead due to the corroded pipelines, leaving hundreds of children with life-long health issues and caused at least a dozen people to die as a result of the contaminated water.
The EPA and the state of Michigan have both since put up millions of dollars in order to restore Flint’s water infrastructure and to once again supply the residents of Flint with clean drinking water.